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IN RESPONSE: Schools over stadiums referendum about Nevada priorities

Your Sept. 8 editorial criticized the Nevada State Education Association’s effort to stop public funding for a major league baseball stadium in Las Vegas. But the union is not about to hit into a “triple play,” as you claimed.

Nevada educators work hard to provide a quality education for every Nevada student. Sadly, we’ve never been provided with the resources to make our schools the best they can be. Nevada consistently ranks near the bottom of states in education funding, and with 40 or more kids in some Las Vegas classrooms, everyone knows we struggle with the nation’s largest class sizes. That problem has become only worse with record teacher departures and countless classrooms covered by long-term substitutes.

While state leaders talked a lot about education funding during the past legislative session and budgeted a percentage of the additional revenue the state received from the economic bounce-back, most of the increases were eaten by record inflation.

With only weeks left in the legislative session, nearly 1,000 educators and supporters rallied in front of the Legislature, imploring state leaders to do more to help our schools. Instead, the politicians turned their attention away from struggling educators and students and toward a California billionaire, the owner of the Oakland A’s.

Grounded in the reality of an everyday crisis in classrooms, the Nevada State Education Association opposed this $380 million giveaway. We couldn’t help but point out the irony of giving public money to the A’s after being the only state to receive three Fs in education funding in the 2022 “Making the Grade” report.

After the Legislature’s eight-day special session devoted to this public giveaway, the association decided to launch Schools Over Stadiums to force a public conversation about Nevada’s priorities. Last month, Schools Over Stadiums filed a referendum petition to give Nevada voters the chance to weigh in on state tax funding to pay for stadium bonds. This public conversation should include those like the Review-Journal, which supports the use of public tax dollars for a ballpark, but it also should include parents with kids in Nevada schools starved of resources and educators who dig deep into their own pockets for supplies for their classrooms.

Supporters and the Review-Journal claim the stadium will generate new revenue for schools. But educators aren’t falling for it — and neither should the public. Nevada school funding has fallen even further behind since the publicly funded Allegiant Stadium opened.

Unlike the bill to give away public funds to a California billionaire, the referendum crafted by Schools Over Stadiums targets the state taxes to be used for stadium bonding. The referendum addresses the issue raised by Steve Hill of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority — and an unregistered lobbyist for the stadium bill — related to the timing of a public vote coming after a contract is signed between the Stadium Authority and the A’s.

If the referendum is successful, the A’s could still build their ballpark, they’d just have to do it without the state tax revenue. More importantly, the referendum gives Nevada voters the chance to say whether state taxes should be used to build a stadium or for another purpose such as our struggling schools. For educators, that’s a home run, not a swing and miss.

Dawn Etcheverry is a Washoe County music teacher and the president of the Nevada State Education Association.

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